Column by Bert van Oostveen, CEO, Knowledge Centre for Sport and Physical Activity Netherlands – Originally published in Dutch in Magazine Sport & Municipalities
Exploring and pushing limits
For me, the summer is a period of exploring boundaries and pushing them. And all too often this provides me with insights for sport and exercise in the Netherlands.
In June, I was in Portorož in Slovenia - with a small Dutch delegation - for the world congress of TAFISA, the leading international organisation for the promotion of sport and physical activity. "Sport for all in a changing world' was the main theme, which of course fits in very well with the new reality we have to deal with. Climate change, pandemics, inequality, and digitalisation are just some of the global challenges that are changing people's behaviours and attitudes and forcing sports organisations to respond appropriately.
Portorož Resolution: a beautiful statement from 'sport for all'
At the same time, 'sport for all' (I actually find our Dutch term ‘breedtesport' a weird word) also contributes to solutions. "Sport has proven itself as an effective tool for building peaceful bridges between people, communities and nations," is a sentence from the Portorož Resolution launched at the Congress. The signatories pledge to contribute to this use of sport and physical activity to create friendships and contribute to reconciliation and mediation.
If I were sitting in my office in Utrecht and reading this, I might dismiss it as too pompous. But it feels different in the company of hundreds of participants from all over the world, from conflict countries, from countries with a big gap between the rich and the poor, from countries where hardly any space is created for playing and sports. Then you know better what role sport and exercise can and should play at many levels. As the Netherlands, we can also support other countries in this, by sharing Dutch knowledge and good examples (in English!). So it is an excellent idea to make such a statement, which has also been signed by the Dutch members NOC*NSF and our knowledge centre. The complete content can be found in the Kennisbank Sport& Bewegen.
Fundamental right to sport
A few quotes from the conference that stayed with me, which I could link to the Dutch discussions on sports policy. Dr Fiona Bull, head of the Physical Activity Department at the WHO, links sport and physical activity almost exclusively to health - which I find a too narrow approach - but rightly mentions mental and social health in addition to physical health. Fortunately, mental health in particular will receive more attention in Dutch sports policy in the coming years. And she rightly believes that the World Health Organisation should give particular support to countries that are not yet able to deploy all those wonderful evidence-based programmes and projects.
Philippe Müller-Wirth, head of the sports section at UNESCO, mentions the fundamental right to sport and the fact that many governments and investors in other domains do not yet sufficiently recognise the importance of sport and exercise. He emphasises that we need to share much more data, more concrete results and good examples in order to gain conviction. It is not for nothing that I notice that our SROI about the social added value of sport and exercise also attracts attention beyond the Dutch borders. That is why we have translated it into English, just like the Roadmap Sustainable Sport (Routekaart Duurzame Sportsector), for example. And who knows, maybe the Physical Activity Alliance (Beweegalliantie), with its integrated movement policy across all domains, will become an internationally prominent example in a few years' time.
A national day off for sport and exercise
But we can also be inspired in other ways. For example, Slovenia is the only country in Europe to have established a national day off for sport, always on the first day of European Sport Week. Good idea? Personally, I was very charmed by the story of CEO Richard Way of Sport for Life Canada, who contrasts the well-known pyramid model for talent development in a specific sport with a rectangular model in which you focus on different sports and assume that everyone is moving throughout their lives, with new sports experiences all the time. Such stories then travel back to the Netherlands with me and are helpful again when we are working on the programme for the Week of Motor Skills (7-11 November).
But of course, I also had to explore some boundaries personally and cycled through steep hills on my racing bike in the vicinity of Portorož. Now I understand even better how Pogaĉar became as good as he is, with such a challenging environment to cycle in. For now, I'll stick to the Utrechtse Heuvelrug...
Bert van Oostveen, CEO Knowledge Centre for Sport & Physical Activity Netherlands
P.S. During the TAFISA congress, colleague Jacqueline Kronenburg was elected as member of the board of TAFISA. Her candidature was supported by the ministry for Sport, NOC*NSF and the Association for Sport and Municipalities VSG; with Dutch people in strategic European and international positions, we continue to explore and shift boundaries ourselves.
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